Can you tandem skydive on commercial flights?
Tandem skydiving on a commercial flight
It sounds ridiculous, right? It is. For a number of reasons.
One: everyone would have to pay double.
Passenger airplanes are designed for long distance flights, not short ones where people are required to move around and fly with an open door. Each tandem student would need to pay for two seats, one for them and another for the tandem instructor. That’s at least one extra seat per person (remember, dual-harness parachute systems are really big and heavy).
Two: there’s not enough time for everyone to get out.
The sheer number of passengers alone is enough to rule out the possibility of tandem skydiving on a commercial flight. Add to that the amount of time it takes each of the 200+ people to get suited and geared up and you have barely enough time for a few people. Plus, to maintain safe distancing and avoid unnecessary entanglements, a short but reasonable amount of time must pass between jumpers exiting.
Skydiving dropzone operators address these issues by taking an expensive private aircraft and ripping out the interior, replacing the comfy seats with secured benches and seatbelts. Thus, a private turbo-prop becomes a jump plane.
This removes as many obstacles from inside the plane as possible, allowing jumpers to fully gear up before boarding the plane, perform gear checks inside the plane, and let everyone move freely toward the door in an organized and streamlined way. Doors are replaced with lighter, easier-to-move fixtures that can be left open on descent (because nobody’s left to close it) without creating a hazard.
Three: it’s too high.
Commercial planes cruise at altitudes around 35,000 feet, which is much higher than the human body can survive without proper gear. If the plane’s interior were not sealed and pressurized, you’d need an oxygen tank, mask, and regulator to avoid passing out from hypoxia. In order to survive you would also need a ballistic helmet, flight suit, and altimeter. If the cabin remained pressurized, simply opening the door would create a vacuum and set off a chain reaction, resulting in disaster.
Skydiving planes are non-pressurized, meaning there’s no change in atmosphere whether the door’s open or closed. This keeps you from getting sucked out when the door opens but also makes oxygen canisters or tanks necessary when above a certain altitude for too long.
How skydiving jump planes operate as opposed to commercial airplanes
We already covered how the door and interior are adapted to accommodate in-flight maneuverability and exiting, as well as pressurized versus non-pressurized cabins, so how else is a One-Way flight different from a Half-Way flight?
Big airliners fly high; they also fly fast. The big plane you took to Hawaii that one time cruised at an average speed of around 450-600 mph. That’s one third as fast as a speeding bullet! Ever see a bird flying just outside the window in a movie? Yeah, that’s not a thing.
Jump planes, on the other hand, fly much slower and are therefore a lot safer to leave at altitude. Skydiving planes like the PAC750XL are small by comparison and go just 80-110 mph at the time you jump out.
Instead of the unsurvivable 35,000 feet, most skydiving centers usually jump at around 10,000 or even 13,000 feet. Certain premiere dropzones may have the capacity to offer jumps as high up as you can legally go without experience, which is 18,000 feet. DZs must have planes powerful enough to reach altitude in a reasonable amount of time, employ pilots and jumpers experienced enough to operate at 18k, and have the capacity to provide personal oxygen.
If you’re checking out a place to go skydive and see 18,000 feet as an option, you’ve struck gold! 18k is the world’s highest tandem skydive with a whopping minute and a half of freefall time when starting from sea level. It’s not as high up as an airliner, but trust us, that’s a good thing.
So the next time you’re traveling in an airplane and wonder why there are no parachutes around, you can rest assured that it’s much safer that way. (To read a bit more, check out our article on why there are no parachutes in commercial airplanes.)
Alternatively, you could skip the business trip and just jump out of our airplane. Unlike Delta, unlike Southwest, unlike Trump Shuttle Inc., all SSV & Hollister Airline flights include complete personal parachute systems.
It’s what we would do. It’s what we did yesterday.
It’s what we’ll do right after hitting ‘post.’